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Hip Hop In The Age of Postmodernism

Now that we covered commercial rap and politically conscious rap, the question arises: is it possible in the digital and postmodern age of music, for rappers to be successful in both and find a middle way between the yin and yang?

Thankfully, the music  suggests yes and we can see this through two interesting examples but with polar opposite reactions.


The first is Kanye West, whose latest album Yeezus is a stark break from his previous works, all of which has achieved critical acclaim. In particular, the song New Slaves, has created a lot of controversy because of how the music video was distributed. Unlike nearly all other music videos, it did not make its debut through MTV or BET or any other major television cable. Rather, it was shown through a huge screen in public areas within major cities like Chicago all across the world unannounced and it spurred a viral reaction on the Internet and American music culture.

New Slaves video @ Chicago



In the video, Kanye is overshadowed literally by the abyss – you can barely see his face because he blends very well into the black background. But this is also an affirmation of African American identify and more importantly a reconciliation with their past (and present) history as slaves to colonialism and white supremacy and racism and capitalism.


However, similar to his fearless public statement during the Hurricane Katrina crisis that “Bush does not care about black people,” Kanye was almost immediately demonized after the release of Yeezus and New Slaves by the media as a narcissist and ego-maniac whose art was merely a cover up for his stream of rants.

Jimmy Kimmel did this very well:

But if we take a closer study of the lyrics of the song, we can see that it is indeed highly political, and reintroducing themes of mass incarceration of blacks and police brutality and the connection between class and race in a very new and updated light.

Verse 1

My momma was raised in the era when
Clean water was only served to the fairer skin
Doing clothes you would have thought I had help
But they wasn’t satisfied unless I picked the cotton myself
You see it’s broke nigga racism
That’s that “Don’t touch anything in the store”
And this rich nigga racism
That’s that “Come in, please buy more
What you want, a Bentley? Fur coat? A diamond chain?
All you blacks want all the same things”
Used to only be niggas now everybody playing
Spending everything on Alexander Wang
New Slaves


Verse 2

Like the New World Order
Meanwhile the DEA
Teamed up with the CCA
They tryna lock niggas up
They tryna make new slaves
See that’s that privately owned prisons
Get your piece today
They prolly all in the Hamptons
Braggin’ ’bout what they made
Fuck you and your Hampton house

The same would be true for Eminem, whose song Mosh was a direct criticism against the Bush administration.

here is the video, which features him leading a revolution again the U.S. Government:

Verse 1

All the people up top, on the side and the middle
Come together, let’s all form this stomp just a little
Just let it gradually build from the front to the back
All you can see is a sea of people, some white and some black
No matter what color, all that matters we’re gathered together
To celebrate for the same ’cause no matter the weather

If it rains, let it rain, yeah, the wetter, the better
They aint gon stop us, they can’t, we’re stronger now, more then ever
They tell us, “No”, we say, “Yeah”, they tell us, “Stop”, we say, “Go”
Rebel with a rebel yell, raise hell, we gon let em know
Stomp, push, shove, mush, fuck Bush
Until they bring our troops home, c’mon, just


Verse 2

Imagine it pourin, it’s rainin down on us
Mosh pits outside the oval office
Someones tryin’ to tell us somethin’
Maybe this is God, just sayin’ we’re responsible
For this monster, this coward that we have empowered
This is Bin Laden, look at his head noddin
How could we allow somethin’ like this
Without pumpin’ our fists, now this is our final hour

Let me be the voice, and your strength and your choice
Let me simplify the rhyme just to amplify the noise
Try to amplify it, times it and multiply it by sixteen million
People are equal at this high pitch
Maybe we can reach Al Qaeda through my speech
Let the President answer a high anarchy
Strap him with a AK 47, let him go fight his own war
Let him impress Daddy that way

No more blood for oil, we got our own battles to fight on our own soil
No more psychological warfare to trick us to thinkin’ that we aint loyal
If we dont serve our own country, were patronizin’ a hero
Look in his eyes, its all lies the stars and stripes have been swiped Washed out and wiped and replaced with his own face
Mosh now or die, if I get sniped tonight
Youll know why, cuz I told you to fight

Verse 3

And as we proceed to mosh through this desert storm
In these closing statements, if they should argue
Let us beg to differ as we set aside our differences
And assemble our own army to disarm this weapon
Of mass destruction that we call our President
For the present and mosh for the future of our next generation
To speak and be heard, Mr. President, Mr. Senator

The major difference is that Eminem is a white rapper and Kanye is a rapper, in that most rappers are black. This is substantially significant because Eminem can “get away” with criticizing the most powerful man in the world because of his race yet makings song like “Ass Like That,” while Kanye received a very negative backlash. Nonetheless, in the postmodern age of music, it is possible for a select few talented artists committed to their craft who can achieve that sweet spot of being both critically and commercially successfully…without being politically correct.


george-bush-doesnt-like-black-peopleass like that